This month we introduce you to Irene Quarcoo, 2015-2016 CivicAction DiverseCity Fellow, former ELNstudio Committee member, active community builder, and Senior Manager of Transformation at the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General. Learn why Irene applied to be a DiverseCity Fellow and how it shaped her leadership journey.
Q: What motivated you to join the ELN and/or apply to the DiverseCity Fellows Program?
I first heard about CivicAction because it was part of the corporate social responsibility portfolio I managed at PortsToronto (formerly Toronto Port Authority). ELN was one CivicAction’s flagship programs and I wanted to know more about it so I came out for a few events, and I got hooked!
By getting increasingly involved I had a chance to learn more about civic issues in the GTHA. After a few years of being an active member (including ELNstdio Planning and sitting on the ELN Exec) I applied to the DiverseCity Fellows Program (for the second time) because I wanted to take some time out to reflect on the civic space, invest in myself, figure out what kind of leader I am and understand the role I can play in shaping a better tomorrow.
Q: How has your involvement shaped your leadership journey?
It’s been instrumental. I’d say that being on the ELN Executive and co-leading the overhaul and delivery of ELNstudio were just the beginning and the DiverseCity Fellowship pulled it all together. It may sound a little sweet to say this but I don’t know that I would be where I am in my leadership journey if not for the fellows program.
I applied to the program twice. The first time I didn’t make the cut, this motivated me to do more and get involved in things outside of work because I wanted to figure out what drove me and where my interests lay. If this hadn’t happened I may not have gotten as plugged in or done as much. Not getting into the program lit a fire and fuelled my desire to get more involved in the civic space. When I applied the second time and got into the Fellowship this meant that I was coming in with some really interesting experiences and perspectives.
Being a fellow was awesome because I had the chance to really focus on civic leadership, build up my toolbox and get up close and personal with some of the most impressive emerging and established leaders the GTHA has to offer. That’s priceless. The program’s given me permission to fearlessly own my leadership brand and it’s given me a great confidence boost. It’s also given me a mirror into who I am as a person. So not only do I know now who I am as a leader but how to leverage that and apply it to what I do.
Q: Why is diverse leadership important?
That’s a great question! It’s important because diverse leadership brings different points of view to the table. Leaders lead and should be an example that is reflective of today rather than a holdover of days past.
An analogy I often like to use when I talk about diverse leadership is a stained glass window. It’s made up of different shapes and colours, but everything comes together to create a richer more interesting view than a single shape or colour of glass alone. One is art that forces you to look and engage, even if just with kaleidoscope it creates, the other is just glass and you see right through it (unless it’s frosted glass, in which case you see only light and shadow..)
Q: What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess and why?
Only one? Hmm…I would say it’d be a willingness to learn. This means admitting when you’re wrong, being open to risk and never losing that childlike curiosity that’s easy to let go of.
Q: What is one thing you do to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
I continually challenge myself to do something in my stretch zone (that space that makes you super uncomfortable but allows for personal growth). In other words I am constantly doing something that pushes me forward.
Q: What is a hobby/talent of yours that people may not know about?
I’m an artist. It’s a term that I only recently started using because I don’t think my work is very good (yes, I suffer from the Artist’s Curse). My preferred medium is modern batik, it’s beautiful and really relaxing, but I work in acrylic and shoot on film (and DLSR) as well.